Enter Shikari: Appeal to Reason
British electro-hardcore band Enter Shikari’s bassist Chris Batten on their new album ‘The Mindsweep’ and being socially conscious
After a busy decade, British electro-hardcore band Enter Shikari are ready with their fourth album The Mindsweep. It’s probably fair to ask bassist Chris Batten if he ever sees his band, who started out in 2003, if they ever plan to slow down. Batten shoots back, “I don’t know, that’s what my girlfriend asks me.” After five EPs, countless live bootleg DVDs and several headlining tours, the band ”“ best known for their mash of hardcore, metal, drum and bass, dubstep and electronica ”“ are prepping for a show in Japan. While they impressed with their 2007 album Take to the Skies, it was with Common Dreads, which released in 2009, that the band began spitting rhymes and invading festivals with their socially conscious lyrics about life in the UK. They amped things up with songs like the plea for nonviolence (“Gandhi Mate, Gandhi”) and their take on global warming (“Arguing With Thermometers”) on 2012’s A Flash Flood of Colour. Says Batten about their songs, “We grew up in a place that’s just outside of London [St. Albans] and we were very lucky to have so many influences right at our doorstep. We always found that the most passionate music came from the people who are really into what they’re saying. It’s kinda the same for us.” Similarly, Batten assures that The Mindsweep is equally thought provoking. Adds the bassist, “There are some things that are undeniably important ”” things like Climate change ”” it’s impossible to ignore. That’s the same thing all over the world. Those are the things that affect everyone.”
Ahead of their show in Tokyo, Batten spoke to ROLLING STONE India about The Mindsweep, working with producer Dan Weller [from prog metallers SikTh] and three things he recommends that will change people’s perceptions about society and living.
RS: What kind of issues are you taking on in The Mindsweep?
Chris Batten: In terms of themes on the album, each song has a different theme. The Mindsweep is just about the changing perÂception and changing the way we think about things and the way society is set up.
British bands, in particular, like to make political and socially conscious statements in their songs. Where does that come from for you guys?
We grew up in a place that’s just outside of London and we were very lucky to have so many influences right at our doorstep. We always found that the most passionate music came from the people who are really into what they’re saying. It’s kinda the same for us.
Do fans want to talk about these issues and themes with you? Or is the banter after a show much more light-hearted?
When we talk to people, some want to talk about it, some don’t. Some people just like to enjoy the music for what it is, which is fine. Most times people come up to us and say ”˜This song made me think of stuff I wasn’t aware about’. It’s always good when something like that happens.
You guys like to release non-album singles between albums. That’s something pop artists usually do.
On the albums, we’ve got so many different types of songs. On this album, we wanted to represent everything we could do, and it’s tough to release everything. I think it’s just selfish and us wanting people to hear everything ”” every different kind of sound we create and every avenue we explore. Releasing the singles comes purely from that. You won’t be able to hear that side of us, usually. And we just give them away for free because that’s the best way to do them.
Definitely. I think songs like “The Paddington Frisk” wouldn’t fit on any album.
No, it doesn’t. You’re right.
Between recording and touring, how do you manage to keep up with things that are happening across the world or even the UK?
I think it doesn’t really matter where you are. We’ve only ever written about things that have affected us, things that we feel passionate about. It’s not the case where we go online and read the politics page or anything like that. It’s just that we write about things that we think are important.
Going back to the album, what was it like getting back in the studio with [producer] Dan Weller? What do you guys do differently each time with the same producer?
The reason we decided to go with Dan in the end was because the first time, he made us feel completely comfortable. It’s only when you feel really comfortable ”” when you’re in that environment ”” that you can truly be creative. You can experiment, you can think outside the box. Dan totally makes us feel like that. Dan was in a band called SikTh, who we’re very big fans of. We’re pretty similar ”” he was from a place that’s not very far from us. The most important thing in the studio is to feel comfortable to try new things and Dan just makes us feel like that.
Speaking of SikTh, they’re coming down to India this month. Have you guys ever got any offers?
I don’t know. I’m not sure, but we’d love to come. It’s just”¦ I remember having talks of a tour but some reasons made it impossible for us to come down. I think there were a few promoters but it fell apart. But yeah, we’d love to play India.
I remember watching one of your live DVDs, 3 Nights at the Astoria 2, which had a DJ opening for you and Japanese hardcore band Maximum the Hormone. Do you still get to pick that kind of varied music for your shows?
To be honest, in the UK, we have a lot of influence in the music scene and we can have a say in what goes into our shows. We thought we’d present the people who we thought are musically good. The thing is, there are so many talented bands and artists out there and there’s so much rubbish on the radio. Putting up your own show is a good way to make people listen to the music you dig.
I remember that smooth jazz version of your song “Destabilise” that you made as Jonny and the Snipers. Do you think there will ever be another Jonny and the Snipers song?
[laughs] Yeah, probably. The only time that happened was when we were in the studio, we were messing around and that’s where that came from. We like all kinds of music and Johnny and the Snipers is something we all like to do. It’s fun in itself. We’d definitely like to do it again, it’s just a matter of all of us finding a song and see what we can do with it.
I know I’m asking you this at a time when you’ve just flown from Spain to Japan, but do you ever see the band slowing down a bit?
I don’t know; that’s what my girlfriend asks me. To be honest, I don’t know. We’ve never looked too far in advance. We’re always just taking things as they come. We’re having such a great time. We love writing music, we love playing our music. I’ll do this my whole life if I can. I guess it depends on whether people will still like us in a few years.
I went through all your Twitter feeds. Rob was talking about cleaning his toilet and Rou was talking about [British Prime Minister] David Cameron.
[laughs] Yeah, we’re on about all the main issues.
Lastly, if you had to recommend three things that people should watch, listen or read, what would they be?
One, The Zeitgeist Movement, they’ve got like four or five films now. That was a really inspiring thing for us to watch. It’s so to-the-point. I think when most people watch that, they go, ”˜Oh, it all makes sense.’ Then there’s 1984, by George Orwell and then, I haven’t read his books yet, but I’m a big fan of Russell Brand. Do you know Russell Brand?
Oh yeah, the comedian.
He’s one of the few people who uses his stature and his influence to talk about things that are important and I really respect him for that. He’s quite a character.
This article appeared in the January 2015 issue of ROLLING STONE India.